By Andrew Mulenga
SarahChibombwe has barely emerged on to the art circuit, but in just three months her work has been shown in the Livingstone Art Gallery, the Henry Tayali Art Gallery, the Zebra Crossing Café at Ababa House in Lusaka and a Ladies Circle workshop.
Although the 26 year old is wary of the attitude among female artists of whom over the years the trend has been to quit art when they get married, become mothers, or simply lose support and inspiration. As misogynistic as that may sound one may be compelled to agree with Chibombwe, the female artist is indeed an endangered species.
|Back to my roots, 2014, acrylic on canvas, |
by Sarah Chibombwe
“A few people are probably waiting to see me quit seeing this has been the trend with most female artists… well this one here is no quitter. I was born an artist and I live it. It runs in my veins,” she says.
The artist is in fact a trained chef who has gone AWOL (Absent without Leave), temporarily abandoning her oven for an easel and her cooking sticks for paint brushes since graduating from the Fairview Hotel and Tourism Training Institute in Lusaka last year where she studied Food Production.
She currently occupies a small cubicle at the Art Academy without Walls in the Lusaka show grounds where she is the only female artist that has taken up permanent residence there.
“I’m always asked how I manage to survive since I’m the only female permanently camped here, but it’s nothing new to me;from 2011 to 2012 I was the only girl on the football team at Fairview. I also play pool and have participated in several tournaments, you know it’s always played by men but right now the Lusaka City Council and the Mulungushi Service Club both want me to sign up to their teams, I haven’t yet made up my mind. In 2013 I was the only female sign-writer at Brush Works in Kitwe”.
She says her efforts to form a girls’ team at Fairview were futile; this disappointed her because at Njase Girls Secondary School in Choma she was a key player on the school team.
Actually, Njase was one of the places that would ignite her inspiration to one day pursue art professionally. There was no art class at the school but she was constantly exposed to Chapel murals, eight large paintings done by the late Emmanuel Nsama, whom she would later meet in Kitwe where she became his protégée, the same year she was nominated for a Mukuba Award.
|Wrath of a Lion, 2014, acrylic on canvas, |
by Sarah Chibombwe
Apart from Nsama, other influences have been Clement Mfuzi who advised her to join the Visual Arts Council when she was still in secondary school, and while at Fairview she was introduced to Adrian Ngoma who would then link her to former VAC chairman Mulenga Chafilwa who gave her the opportunity to exhibit in the Golden Jubilee exhibition at the Livingstone Art gallery’s inaugural show.But it was Caleb Chisha and the late Ignatius Sampa who continued to coach her in painting until she gained a reasonableamount of confidence.
But even in her untried career she has endured rejection and has used it to motivate herself. Last year she was approached by a media company to produce a football-related artwork, her final submission was not accepted, undeterred she is currently working on a commission of paintings from a mining company alongside other artists, thoroughly excited by the prospect she believes 2015 is looking good although the works in progress depict aspects of the mining industry her usual work relates to her mood of the day.
“I love bright colours because I am a jovial person. I never really have a story line I paint my feelings, but sometimes I just wake up and ask myself what mood am I in today then I go ahead and start painting accordingly, but that doesn’t mean I don’t paint about issues that concern me or provoke my thoughts,” she says.
Back to My Roots, a work that is currently hanging at the Henry Tayali Gallery in Lusaka has a visual charm that stands out in the exhibitionspace; among other things it reflects the artist’s stance against hair extensions with questionable origins that in recent times seem to be the pride of black African women or indeed women of African descent. Wearing these Peruvian, Indian and Brazilian hair wigs and extensions has to an extent become a status symbol rather than an enhancement of beauty, as of last year, it was reported that African women were spending a combined $7 billion on wigs and related products annually.
|Sarah 'Chule' Chibombwe|
One can only side with Chibombwe and hope that African women will outgrow their obsession with wigs as the Europeans did. In the era of Marie Antoinette white hair hats were considered very fashionable. The European hair hats are in fact the precursors of theunsightly apparel often adorned by the learned men and women of the Zambian legal system.
“As Africans we have borrowed too much from the west and I put dreadlocks on the girl in the painting because they are natural, when you look at today’s women, they look too artificial try to see her in the morning she is something else. The boots (Timberlands) represent my generation, the nakedness represents our origins from Adam and Eve and the locks like I said represent how natural we should be, we can incorporate all the three and not forget where we are coming from,” she explains.
Chibombwe herself wears naturally developed dreadlocks but says she is by no means a Rastafarian as may be assumed when one observes her often unkempt appearance.
“I’m here to work; I’m not here to attract anyone. I have locks because I have no time to go looking for weaves and doing my nails, but that doesn’t mean I have to be dirty but with the girls what comes first is always the hair,” explains the tomboy who claims to be enjoying an intimate relationship with a boyfriend who is currently employed with a popular inter-city bus company.